His Dark Materials

Ongoing Thoughts on the TV Show

A couple of weeks ago, I prefaced my review of Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth with a few comments on His Dark Materials, the drama currently being shown on the BBC. Even without seeing the final episode of Series 1, I can say that nothing the writer and producers have done has changed my long-held opinion: the best books very rarely, if ever, translate into good films.

There are some excellent scenes in His Dark Materials, coupled with very good acting. I don’t deny it. Examples include the scene at Bolvangar, when Mrs Coulter discovers Lyra in the cutting chamber, then realises she has gone. The episode in the bear king’s ‘palace’ isn’t bad either though I have to ask, why on earth didn’t the bears wear their armour for the fight to the death?

Interspersed with the good scenes were, for me, I’m sorry to say, periods of dreadful tedium. Moreover, mixing scenes from The Subtle Knife where they don’t belong didn’t help. I found those frustrating.

Reading Northern Lights, I was never bored. The characters spring out of the pages, growing with every chapter. Even when there isn’t a lot of action, we get to experience Lyra’s thoughts and feelings, something that is difficult to portray on screen. Then there are those deep philosophical ideas, impossible to explore adequately in drama.

There you have it! The TV show doesn’t do justice to Mr Pullman’s amazing, imaginative novel, and I am so disappointed. Oh, I shall watch the final episode on  Sunday, and probably the next series too, but it will never excite the same passions, the same emotions as the original books.

No doubt other viewers/readers will have a different opinion, and I will be very interested in their comments.



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